-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — In a recent ruling, Argentina's Supreme Court finally decided, for procedural purposes, to recognize contracts that individual parties make through the intermediary firm Uber as legally valid.

The decision comes amid growing public debate over these kinds of digital platforms and the services they provide. Uber and its ilk seek to match service providers with users through a third party that removes the administrative barriers, local regulations, tax and labor rules we've otherwise been accustomed to.

If we add to this the non-territorial nature of these firms, one can see how difficult it is to judge or penalize these firms, or even apply the rules as we know them. The phenomenon is not, however, new. Indeed, we can see this same disruptive blueprint in other big tech firms.



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Uber-style services are beginning to dominate multiple markets — Photo: Serge Kutuzov

Facebook, the world's most important communication platform, owns no telecommunication infrastructures. The online retailer Alibaba owns no shops. Netflix, the online distributor of films and television series, holds no licenses. And the world's main search engine, Google, charges nothing for the information it finds. Something is changing in the world, and the costs and logistics of marketing are today dropping to practically nothing.

The consumer, in the meantime, can now access directly — and from anywhere — whatever he or she wants, and, so far, this has proved highly popular. The internet has permitted this access to information, entertainment or services, converting and simplifying atoms into bytes.

Just as with passenger transportation, new protagonists are also creating complex systems for product deliveries. They include, at the bottom end, the cyclists and motorcyclists we now see as part of the city landscape, remolding the reality of consumption and work. All of this means new jobs, use of communication technologies, more tax contributions and reduced costs.

The consumer, in the meantime, can now access directly — and from anywhere — whatever he or she wants.

One should recall that the debate on the legality of these services is comparable to the Supreme Court ruling of 2015, which exempted search engines of responsibility in their intermediary role in the search for content. Laws always follow facts on the ground, which makes sense. After all, we cannot anticipate norms for things that have yet to happen.

As for the transportation and taxi services, the realities we can all already see — the proliferation, namely, of two-wheeled delivery people — will inevitably lead to legal redefinitions for the emerging economic sector. It's just a matter of time.


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